Sunday, 28 September 2014

Thoughts on Stretch and size

A while back, I made Pattern Review's Winter Street Dress.  I adjusted the pattern to account for my long front bodice, in particular; however, when I made the dress the bodice was still too short (I should say that on looking at these photos the length of bodice being too long in my opinion at that time is less obvious). This, by the way, was my first real experience of a stretch fabric.

Next, I further altered the pattern - bodice length needed to be greater to bring the waist into line with my waist. I like any waistline to be at my natural waist - in this dress, I felt the original pattern as modelled  had a waist almost like an empire line. This was not a feature I liked. I made up this dress in a fabric very similar to the first, both plain coloured fabrics with some but not much stretch. I felt the final dress I made from this fabric was a good fit. Since then, I have worn the dress a few times and washed it a few times and it's possible it has shrunk a little. I'm not sure - in the same time scale, I was putting on weight, regrettably!

So, I thought I had a pattern adjusted perfectly to my body (I hoped I had one of those TNTs that people talk about!) and went ahead and made another dress with a floral stretch fabric. This fabric was much more difficult to work with. It was thinner, stretchier and altogether 'flimsier' than the previous fabric. I had difficulty sewing on the neckband and was unable to do it the same way I had in the previous dress, where I stitched in the ditch to make the stitching invisible; this time, I had to end up with stitches that showed; I also had 3 tries at the neckband before I was successful. However, I was pleased with the final version, and wore it a couple of times.

For me to wear any of my makes was quite remarkable - these were the first two I ever wore outside the house.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I went to put on both dresses, on different days. The teal blue dress felt tight but not overly so and I was happy to wear it. I felt pretty good in it. Then, a few days later, I went to put on the floral dress. It felt bigger than the teal and looked long. I wore it, but didn't feel altogether comfortable. I realised that the waistline was sitting too low, by about 1 inch. After some measuring, I realised that the fabric had stretched. I don't have a photo of me wearing it - I thought I had but can't find it.
Floral dress held up against me while wearing blue dress
I took this dress to my sewing class on the following Thursday. What I wanted to do was to reduce the bodice length by about 1 inch and also reduce skirt length by at least the same amount. I tacked the skirt and bodice to each other, taking up 1 inch on each, for a total reduction of 2 inches and tried it on. It looked much better. I'm in the process of unpicking the previous stitching, which was over clear elastic. Then, I'll sew the two together, using my new overlocker and feeding the clear elastic at the same time. At least, I understand I can do that but I haven't tried it yet. I'll post a picture of the dress on this post as an edit when I've finished my alterations.

My question, though, is how do you know how much a fabric is going to stretch? I had prewashed and prepared the fabric. The pattern, by the way, didn't specify a degree of stretch. My tutor has advised sewing in fabric loops when I sew the bodice and skirt together again - she said this would minimise stretching when the dress is hung up.
I'd like to make the pattern again, but I'm completely unsure whether my alteration is now too much. I do, however, have a third fabric similar in characteristics to the first two I used. I'm less keen on the colour, which is rather too green for my liking. Maybe that would be successful.

I notice on some Pattern envelopes, there is a required degree of stretch, and I would like that to help me see if my fabric is suitable for the pattern.

Also, I understand there is some differing terminology. 'Two way stretch' can apparently mean the same as 'four way stretch'. This means that if I see pattern recommending 'two way stretch' I don't know if they mean both horizontal and vertical stretch (which some people call four way stretch) or a fabric that stretches in one direction only, horizontal or vertical.

Two other things - I'm testing a pattern just now, more on that later, but as do many others, the pattern maker suggest it's best to cut out stretch fabric with a rotary cutter. I must say, I find a rotary cutter easier, in any case. However, I have read on some of my (many) books that it is best to cut with shears, especially on stretch fabric. I find the rotary cutter easier and I will continue with that but wonder what the opposing arguments are.
The second is, I only recently learned that garment manufacturers cut out numerous layers of garments at the same time and that to conserve fabric, sometimes different sizes will be adjacent to each other. Firstly, I'm amazed that they can cut multiple layers - I find it so difficult. Then of course, they're not cutting fabric on the fold - It's so much easier to cut single layer. I wonder, however, whether their habit of cutting different sizes together accounts for a recent near purchase. This was a top I liked, in a sale so at a good price but one sleeve was significantly different from the other both in length and in width. I didn't buy the top.



Saturday, 27 September 2014

Reminiscing but not much sewing

 Warning - not a lot of sewing here! I hope I can be excused. For some reason, I felt I wanted to write this post.

I've been doing a lot of reminiscing recently. It seemed quite appropriate that we've just had the autumn solstice where day and night are equal lengths, a time when one day seems like summer and the next most definitely autumn.

One of the reasons for reminiscing was the Scottish referendum - residents of Scotland voted last week as to whether they wanted to be an independent country, separate from the rest of the United Kingdom.
This question has been hanging over businesses and residents for two and a half years and caused some big companies (including the Royal Bank of Scotland) to announce that they would leave Scotland given a yes vote. 16 and 17 year olds were given a vote for this referendum - it was felt that younger people were more in favour of independence. Older people were on the whole not - worries about pensions, health care etc. My elderly - well old really - mother has been extremely anxious over recent weeks in particular. Although I am Scottish in that I was born in Scotland of Scottish patents and lived and worked in Scotland until my 30s, I have lived and worked in England for 27 years now, so wasn't eligible to vote. My oldest daughter was born in Scotland but the next two daughters were born in in England - in the home of the Geordies. Fabulous people. My DH and I had always considered moving back to Scotland in retirement but the uncertainties around the referendum put us off. So the decision is still there to make; our current house is much too large for us so we need to consider downsizing at some point. Where to go though?

Just a point, we live much closer to Edinburgh (capital of Scotland and site of Scottish Parliament) than London (capital of England and governmental centre for us). By the way, the democratic vote on the Scottish Referendum was against independence 55% to 45% with a turnout of 86%; however, it seems that the issue hasn't been put to bed.

My oldest daughter, born in Scotland, living in the south of England, has been doing a course in diversity and discrimination and considered lots of issues of identity in her answers. She showed me her written feedback where there is an assumption that she is a Geordie. I asked her and she told me she doesn't feel like one, though she and her DH (from the North East of England) would love to move back to the area, in the same way that we have considered Scotland (we've lived in a few cities, moving for jobs). This daughter is hoping to take up machine sewing with a view to making cushions, curtains etc for her home so I gave her my previous class machine  - the Viking HQ100. When I originally demonstrated it to her, it wasn't working well and the tensions were all over the place. I got it serviced and was told the needle had been loose and advised to ensure I always used the correct bobbins (which I had). I gave her a couple of books, too.

My middle daughter, born just after we moved to England, has been doing a Masters in psychology in Scotland. Her original degree was in a big city in England - and that's where she wants to be, as she considers that 'home', even though she has split up with the boyfriend she was going to spend the rest of her life with in that city and even though she has been away for 3 years now. Oh and she doesn't have a job. She has already had challenges and faces more but wants to be there. DH is moving her this weekend by van from our house, where she's been for a few weeks now, to a flat share with 3 young professionals.

My youngest daughter has had to make quite a few short term sacrifices in the hope of long term gain. She's had problems with her last flat share and this resulted in her and her boyfriend moving to a flat they're renting on their own - an inferior flat to their previous one (shared with two others) and more expensive but without the hassle of other flatmates. They've just moved and are effectively starting to set up home together in a way they didn't do before. It reminds me of how we started out. When they were up here last weekend, my daughter brought a few garments she'd like repaired or altered. I hate alterations. I'm also not sure that some of these garments can be altered. One of them has a torn bodice and I'm sure can't be repaired but I hope I can salvage the beautiful decorative panels at front. She also wants me to shorten the straps of the Cynthia Rowley dress I made her as they slip down - and the poppets at the back pop open, even though I used 4, so I'll have to consider using heavy duty ones.


I've been very busy with family matters, golf business and play, bridge class and play and sewing classes, which started last week.

I've now done two nights of my pattern cutting class. Very interesting. The tutor decided to use draping rather than mathematical methods, as that takes longer. I'll be interested to see how the result compares to the result from the class I took in August.

One of the things I hadn't appreciated is that I'm very tired after the classes - the journey to the class is very lengthy because of traffic congestion; I thought I'd put rush hour traffic behind me when I retired! So twice a week is more than I'd bargained for.

I've done one night of my beginners' dressmaking class. I'm a bit advanced for it as some have never threaded a machine etc. However, I'm missing a lot of the basics to be suitable for the intermediate class. I have been given a jetted (or double welt) pocket to try - but I've nver done anything close to this so think maybe the beginners' class is the place to be. I missed the second class, where those absolute beginners were going to be shown how to thread a machine and begin to use it, as I travelled up to Scotland, to Gleneagles, to watch the Ryder Cup (Europe v USA golf team competition which happens every second year), or at least the last practice day before the actual competition starts tomorrow (I'm writing this in my mother's home on Thursday night). Gleneagles is beautiful - I just love visiting Scotland, but do I want to live there?

As it's Thursday today, I've also missed the second class of my regular sewing class. At the first one, I showed my tutor my white dress - and didn't need to explain anything as she'd read my blog post! We agreed the dress wasn't satisfactory and on discussing options agreed it may as well get regularly washed when I'm washing whites to see if that improves matters. We felt that the idea of embroidering of top stitching princess seams wasn't going to work.

So I've been revisiting some previous makes. I've already jettisoned a skirt I made early on. I saved the lining I made for it and hope that I might be able to use it in the skirt I started a while back - it's cotton and I feel it would benefit from a lining as it's a bit clingy. So more reminiscing - I can see that my sewing skills have improved since those earlier makes.

Now it's Saturday and I'm busy prepping fabric and piecing together a PDF pattern, while watching the Ryder Cup on TV. I think the result is going to be very close. It's true that to some extent I'm putting off sewing by blogging and watching golf and making a rice pudding!

I ordered a recommended draping book and it arrived so I'll have a look at that too.

Over the next few weeks, I'll again be very busy as my mother is going to have operative treatment to her eyes, with the hope of regaining about 40% vision, which would be terrific. She will have the treatment in London, so a few trips there for both of us over the next few weeks.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Learning from my mistakes?

I haven't been doing much sewing. The weather has been great here on the whole apart from a few recent chilly evenings and mornings when the central heating has come on. During summer I have a lot of golf matches at various different courses - a pleasure in good weather. My back problems have hindered a little but I'm determined that they won't stop me; I go to chiropractor/osteopath, do stretches etc and take supplements and NSAIs and use a belt when necessary. I manage. I'm also preparing a lot of paperwork for circulation to the 40 odd golf courses in the county and then for the AGM (I'm County Vets' Secretary). On top of that, there have been a few family issues that took time and used up emotional energy with the end result that I didn't feel like sewing. But that's okay - it's a hobby and not a job! I have continued to read the blogs I follow and I read some books, some sewing, some not. Oh, and I also bought a few patterns. I did do one or two alterations to garments belonging to me and to one of my daughters.

I had intended to sew some golf crop trousers but didn't get around to it. Maybe next year - the season for golf is nearly over and then I'm into cold weather wear. I do have some warmer golf trousers that would be suitable if I can alter them to fit better. Some are just heavier weight wool but some are water resistant and fleece lined and I'm not too sure about altering those - I don't want to make them leak at the seams with new stitching! I've also discovered that I don't like making alterations.

I signed up for a couple more online courses. The most recent was a Pattern Review course on understanding interfacing. I haven't received my pack of interfacing samples and fabrics to do two half sized samples yet but I've read through all of the materials. It makes interesting reading - I had no idea there were so many different types of interfacing! I don't imagine that I'll be able to get them all in the UK, even online and I don't want to order from the US because of postage charges and import tax. I think our biggest name here is Vilene so I need to see if I can get some samples at the show I'm going to in November. Then, too, I need to be undertaking the projects that need these interfacings. But the biggest lesson is to make several samples to see which one suits best for the purpose and your intentions. When I made my jacket, there were several different interfacings involved. My tutor chose these, though, and we didn't really discuss them in detail. I feel that the hemline needed more structure.

So, onto the mistake of the title.
I did view B but in a single colour
My sewing room has been chaotic. It has a whole load of extra stuff in there that isn't usually, making it difficult in any case to sew or even to find things. I was always very organised at work but not so at home. Double whammy! My 'little white dress' (ivory) featured a centre fold right down the front and despite all my efforts, I wasn't able to get rid of this. I hadn't noticed this issue when I was sewing it and would just have assumed it would iron out when the dress was completed. I hope I won't make that mistake again.
Clearly needed better pressing! I thought that was the only issue.

Pictures taken before I realised there was a problem
I decided to take the dress apart to salvage the zipper (a beautiful and rather expensive long invisible zipper) when I realised that I could have a go at trying to replace the middle panel, as I still had enough fabric left. There was nothing to lose - either it would work, or it wouldn't.

So, first step was to remove the middle panel. Achieved. Second step was to cut out a new front panel, using the same pattern piece as before. First problem. I couldn't find it - anywhere. I looked into every pattern envelope and my large art folder which holds my traced, drafted and thicker paper patterns. No joy. Eventually I decided that I would use the front unpicked from the dress as a pattern piece. I traced around the piece and added a seam allowance. I added 1cm only as I had previously used the overlocker to join the sections. So the seam allowance of the side fronts was now only 1cm. I found this process rather more difficult than I anticipated, but I did eventually manage. Then the next step was to cut out a new fabric front panel. Originally, the front had been cut on the fold but I now had a full piece which didn't need to be cut this way. Obviously, I had to avoid recreating the previous problem, and had to manipulate the fabric remnant to allow the rather long piece to be cut out. Eventually achieved. Then I pinned the new front piece into the dress and it sat that way for quite a few days while I contemplated the next step. I wasn't confident about the process.. 
A couple of days ago, I decided I really had to finish or junk the project. I decided to first hand baste the seams, then stitch with the sewing machine and then overlock. Sounds a bit like overkill, but I wasn't very confident and it was much more difficult to make the alteration than it had been to create the dress in the first place! I still had to ease the bust shaping. I still wanted to understitch in the neck area but this was more difficult because of the previous work - the lining was rather frayed and the seam allowance shorter than it had been. Anyway, I eventually managed - not perfect, but good enough, I felt.

I'm not sure why I didn't notice earlier, but then I realised that the centre panel was a different shade from the rest of the dress and had a firmer feeling. My husband asked me if I had put the wrong side out - no, I hadn't. All of the fabric had been pre-washed but of course the rest of the dress had had several treatments to try to get the centre fold out. So I decided I would complete the dress and then wash it. So I finished pressing and then sat down to watch TV and hand stitch hem and stitch lining down to zip. All finished - off to the wash.

The dress has now been washed twice since completion. I could still see a difference in the centre panel. Then, I realised, to my horror, that I had used the fabric wrong way up! I hadn't considered this at all. I always tend to cut using a with nap layout. I hadn't thought of this pattern - a small geometric - as having a right way up. Well, it doesn't, just that all pieces should be the same way up! They're not. I hadn't given it a thought. Can I wear the dress? Will anyone else notice? Does it matter whether they notice or not? - I'll know.

New panel on bottom of photo
The dress is still wet from its most recent wash. I can still see a difference in shade. And after all this manipulation I realise that I don't even know if it still fits me!!

New panel to left of photo
In the photos, I have shown the seam between front and side front. Once the dress is dry, I will try on again and see if it fits and how noticeable the shading and direction is.

Next week, my sewing class restarts after the summer break and I'm starting an evening class in pattern cutting. I'm looking forward to that. Unfortunately, I'll miss a few sessions because of other commitments but hopefully I'll be able to catch up okay. One of the commitments is a sewing one - I'm going to London to the Bernina Sewing School to learn how to use my new Berninas (sewing machines and overlocker). I'm looking forward to life getting more back to normal and I'll get on with some sewing for autumn. Today I played golf in beautiful sunshine, in crops and short sleeved shirt, but the gold and russet coloured leaves, fallen chestnuts and nights drawing in are a reminder that autumn is just around the corner.

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve f...